Comic Non-Sans: “Absence”

I’ve been a bit gripey in my columns lately — though apparently people are cool with that — and so I figure it’s about time to trot out something a bit more positive.  Don’t worry, I won’t make a habit of it.

In particular, I was pointed recently to a comic that was in print for a time, but has gotten the majority of its exposure via WordPress, a free app, and online word-of-mouth.  Nonetheless, it was still news to me, as it has been for many other people.  Written by Andy Luke and drawn by “Torchwood” tie-in comic artist Stephen Downey, Absence is a one-shot comic book detailing life with epilepsy, from low-level controllable absence seizures to crippling grand mal ones.

Absence (c) Andy Luke and Stephen Downey

“Absence” starts out as a series of slices-of-life from the point of view of the author, starting with his mother’s attempts to control or hide his condition and moving on to his adult life, work in a care home for vulnerable adults, and finally his modern-day coping methods.  It begins as a personal history, but at the same time encompasses how many people with seizure-related conditions feel.  Though he did manage a bit more good humor as a child getting EEGs than I might have.

It’s very much a personal narrative, but it does evolve into simplified medical descriptions, first aid, and other things useful for people who might not understand what seizures actually involve.  The progression is very fluid from one section of the narrative to the other, and from here it goes on to another aspect — what the patient can do for themselves, both for peace of mind and for active prevention of future seizures.  Luke has, by his own admission, been seizure-free for many years, and by the end he is sharing his experiences and expertise, making the comic informative for pretty much anyone who picks it up.

I’ve not seen it in actual print.  On the website it’s presented vertically, and the open panels give it something of a free-form feel that goes nicely with the flow of the narrative tied into the informative material.  Also from an artistic standpoint, the art is detailed, but subtle nonetheless.  It’s not at all jarring — Luke is telling us a story in what comes across as a very friendly and sociable way, and the art goes along with that.

Currently going on eight years with seizures following a car accident, I love “Absence” both because it’s something I can send to friends and family that’s a lot more digestible than a medical card of buzzwords, and because I personally enjoy seeing work by someone who shows that this condition can actually be overcome to the point of one’s lifestyle not being affected.  It’s not preachy but it’s also not shy about what it presents.  I’m not sure I’ve yet seen another comic dealing with a serious condition (and there are plenty out there) that’s as … well … “friendly” as this one.  If there isn’t one, there needs to be.  It’s good information, approachable, accessible, and free.

And it’s a damn good use of webcomickry.

Posted on May 24, 2011 at 01:00 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, The Written Word, Webcomics, Webcomics · Tagged with: ,